Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday asked his close-knit team of officers to think creatively to implement the government’s agenda and served a gentle reminder that the PM’s Office too should follow the norms laid down for others.
Singh had earlier this week told central ministers to be guided by the watchwords of equity, innovation and public accountability and encourage promotion of creativity and innovation in their area of work.
All officers at the Prime Minister’s Office attended the hour-long meeting to discuss the agenda of the government and ways of improving delivery, a PMO spokesperson said.
The interaction was his first meeting with his officers in one group. It was also the first day after returning to power that he spent a larger part of the day at his South Block office rather than work out of his office at his official residence.
But rather than preaching to his team, Singh started out by eliciting suggestions from his officials. “It was clear this wasn’t going to be a monologue, like his letter to his ministerial colleagues,” said a PM aide.
The PM has decided to treat the next 10 years as the decade of innovation; President Pratibha Devisingh Patil made the announcement in Parliament last week.
He implemented this mantra at the meeting to give his team a pep talk. Singh had his senior-most aides by his side; Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan, Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Media Adviser Deepak Sandhu. But he began by asking the younger officers to speak their mind first.
Singh heard them out patiently as they came up with suggestions. “One spoke about the need on cutting layers in the bureaucracy and how to go about it, another on fulfilling the PMO’s overarching role without being overbearing on the ministries,” an aide later recalled. The first one had come up with some ideas to improve monitoring of big programmes.
“It was a point that came up several times. And the PM wasn’t just listening and moving on to the next official but responding to the points made,” said a PMO official.
In a statement, Sandhu later said the follow up measures listed to be initiated within the first hundred days and the pending reform of regulatory institutions in the areas of health and education were also discussed.